Ailynn Torres Santana

Ailynn Torres Santana

Académica y militante feminista. Investigadora postdoctoral del International Research Group on Authoritarianism and Counter-Strategies (IRGAC) de la Fundación Rosa Luxemburgo, investigadora asociada de FLACSO Ecuador y parte de la Red “El Futuro es Feminista” de la Fundación Friedrich Ebert. Doctora en Ciencias Sociales por FLACSO Ecuador.

8M: women strike

8M: we stop

The question of whether we Cuban women would have reasons to join the global strike is, at the very least, pertinent. There are? Does the order of things in Cuba admit communication with the strike agenda? For what should we have to fight in Cuba?

creatively living

Doing the math and “creatively living”: from “updating” to the economic reorganization

“It is assumed that there are no big losers,” “there can’t be unprotected people,” “no one will be left unprotected,” are some of the official statements of January 2021. They are enunciated in relation to “the reorganization task” of the Cuban economy. At the same time, it has been stated that it is necessary to “promote a greater interest in work,” that “now people and families have to do the math.” There is also talk of “the need to work” that is driven by the “reorganization task.” It is assured, loud and clear, that “living without working is over.” In relation to this, the two types of headlines suggest that the reorganization will not only try to resolve —again— the distortions of the economy, produced by bad designs and inefficient internal implementations and by the U.S. administrations’ asphyxia of Cuba and its people. The reorganization will also promote a kind of correction of the conception citizens have of work, and of the arrangements that until now had to be made in order to live. “No one will be left unprotected” The reference to “no one will be left unprotected” is a continuity of previous processes and discourses. In the 1990s,...

Photo: Julio César Guanche

Dialogue in this Cuba?

November has been a key month for Cuban politics. In more ways than one, unheard of. A quick glance at the press about the country verifies the existence of high-intensity, aggravated conflicts. There are already systematic chronologies of the axis that began with the arrest on November 9 in Havana of a Cuban citizen, Denis Solís, a rapper and anti-government activist; his prosecution and conviction for the crime of contempt; the peaceful collective action of a group of people articulated around the San Isidro Movement (MSI) and then their quartering and declaration of hunger and/or thirst strikes in protest at what they denounce as an unfair trial and harassment of government actors; the wide media coverage of the independent press of different political leanings and, later, that of the official press; the statements of Luis Almagro from the OAS and the United States ambassador in Havana in favor of the strikers; the official publicity of an excerpt from Solís’s interrogation to show links between him and people with a history of terrorism living in the United States (so far Solís has not been charged for it); the eviction of those who were at the MSI headquarters on the grounds of...

Photo: Juan Ignacio Roncoroni/EFE

Public Health Law and rights of women and the LGTBIQ+ community

There are rights beyond regulations. Social practices and relationships found and ensure rights; they give them de facto existence. The regulations, however, are essential to guarantee rights, although they are not enough either. Institutions, policies, material conditions, people who ensure the regulated right are necessary. All of that at the same time. If there are no such guarantees, the right is incorporeal, it is not realized. Without being in the regulations, the law could be fragile or more easily violated. That is why the processes of regulatory change, such as the one taking place in Cuba, are so important. In December 2019, the legislative schedule that sets out the content and times for the creation or reform of 107 laws and decree-laws was announced. This process is laying a part of the foundations that will regulate the country for a surely long time. The controversies that legitimately take place in the situation should not obscure that other issue that, sometimes without making the headlines, is creating the framework of many possibilities, or impossibilities. Within the legislative change, the new Public Health Law is scheduled to be approved next December. Its contents cannot ignore two things: the presence and intensity of...

“Con mis hijos no te metas” march in Peru. Photo: Exitosa Noticias.

The Cuban port of “Con mis hijos no te metas”

Cuba modified its Constitution in early 2019. In December of that same year, the National Assembly of People’s Power announced the schedule of laws or decrees that, as a consequence of the change in the Magna Carta or as a prior need, would be modified or created in the next two legislatures: 2020-2028. So far, they will be 107. A process of this type is not usual. Rather, it is exceptional. During the constituent change, various issues were debated. The scope of the public health and education systems, forms of ownership, the relationship between State and Party, the rights of association and much more were discussed. However, the bone of contention was the article that proposed to open the door to the recognition of same-sex marriage. This revealed the existence and the pulse of a hitherto marginal political actor: religious neo-conservatism, even fundamentalist. This sector managed to mobilize a citizenry with a religious base and temporarily twist the path of recognition of rights for diverse individuals and families. The confrontation in this regard was postponed up to now, already near  (2021), when the new Family Code is discussed and approved. The above is a fact. But it’s not all. Same-sex...

Photo: Julio César Guanche

The pit of femicides in Cuba

Marta had her daughter Lorena on the same day as her birthday. On July 17, Marta’s partner killed them both using a large knife, with a blade that had previously been of a machete. The knife always stayed in the house. Reinaldo had it done and he used it to shoe animals. But that day he took it with him, for them. He had been in an on-and-off relationship with Marta for a while, and they had started living together in his grandparents' house only six days before. Marta arrived with Lorena on a Tuesday to that rural settlement of Baracoa, a municipality in the eastern part of Cuba with 79,797 residents. "We say that he came in search of death," comments Reinaldo's grandfather. The Monday following their arrival, at seven-something in the morning, Marta and her daughter left the house. A neighbor saw them take the road with Reinaldo. “I greeted him (…) I didn't see him upset. How were we going to think that that boy was going to kill her?! And the girl! ”. Supposedly, Reinaldo would accompany them to the road. He was carrying the girl in his arms. Marta would go to the city with...

Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez

No one will be left unprotected? (II)

In part one of this text, I insisted that the discussion on social policy should be synchronous with that of economic policy. I said that, for this, four fields need urgent attention. I paused on the first two: consider the effects of the foreign exchange market for inequality and see to impoverished social groups or those most vulnerable to falling into poverty. Now I analyze the remaining two: consider the inequalities that constitute the non-state sector and open the debate and economic policy to the consideration of unpaid work as work and part of the economy. Based on these reflections, I propose a decalogue of recommendations that constitutes a starting point for intervening in Cuban inequality orders, as well as in those of the economy. Consider the inequalities that constitute the non-state sector of the economy, which will now be promoted Ensuring protection is essential and says a lot of the egalitarian will that organizes, or not, the life of a country, a home, an enterprise, a community. At the same time, it’s important to ensure equal opportunities to face crises as economic and social agents and not only as subjects of social protection. It’s not a matter of minimums,...

Photo: Gian Carlo Marzall

No one will be left unprotected? (I)

In 1990, during the closing of the 5th Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), then President Fidel Castro said: “We must be prepared for the worst circumstances.... The general principle...I want you to know that it would be, at least, that what we have we distribute among all.” There was applause in the room. In many houses, probably, it was appreciated that facing the crisis was thought of as an equal and cooperative effort. Cuba did not implement neoliberal adjustments in that period, as many of the countries in the region had already done, which, for other reasons, were also in crisis. The scope of the market was expanded and the state apparatus was rationalized, attempts were made to attract foreign capital and create the conditions for the domestic use of the dollar and other currencies. But no public service or productive structure was privatized. The State did not lose its coordinating role. Access to work was not subordinated to the existence of a competitive labor market. Social protection circuits were maintained (universal public health and education systems, basic need food, pensions, etc.) and attempts were made to contain the widening of disadvantages and exclusions. The crisis reached...

Photo: AP.

Pandemonium: apropos the Cuban anti-rights religious program (I)

Help us keep OnCuba alive here Religion is no more the opium of peoples than the market dictating every possibility and meaning of life, or than structural corruption, political despotism, undemocratic impunity. If it it’s about humanity’s opium, the list is long. Explaining the global conservative tide by claiming, without further ado, that “religion is the opium of the people” is politically sterile because it forgets the complexity of our societies and the legitimate place that spiritual worlds and faith―including religious faith―have for people and groups. The process is more complex: we are facing the expansion and taking root of anti-rights neo-conservatism, both religious and secular. Within the religious framework, these neo-conservatisms translate into what analysts call fundamentalist actors. From other approaches, there is talk of reactionaryisms, anti-rights actors or fundamentalism. Although each categorization has its specificities, there is some agreement on some characteristics: the construction of rhetoric of enmity against others (there is an enemy of God, of the church), an absolutist and intolerant agenda against other positions (both religious and secular), a political use of religion, the imposition of its values, behaviors and forms of organization on the whole of society, the promotion of moral panic because of...

Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez

Economic debate in Cuba: first and second planes (II)

Help us keep OnCuba alive here We present the second part of this dossier that contributes to the open economic debate in Cuba, addressing both foreground issues and some of the least considered. Here, Cuban women economists reflect on the relationship between growth and development, on the need to think about inequalities as part, and not after, of the strategies to confront the crisis, on the regulation of labor rights in the non-state sector of the economy and on gender gaps in the Cuban world of work. Four questions, five voices in counterpoint and complementarity.... They hit on old and new nerves of the Cuban economy and insist that, in order for it to recover, no person can, in effect, be left without protection. The empowerment of small and medium-sized enterprises is an essential step in Cuba and is one of the emphases that, from different fronts, are trying to be made to confront the crisis. At the same time, it poses socio-political challenges. Two of them are: 1) guarantees of labor rights, which currently function as minimum, fragile and unsafe regulations for hired workers; 2) social inclusion and redistribution policies. How could these issues be part of the...

Economic debate in Cuba: first and second planes (I)

Help us keep OnCuba alive here In recent weeks, and in connection with the national economic crisis aggravated by the global health and economic situation, the economic debate has intensified in institutional and non-institutional spaces. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and other international organizations have predicted a deep contraction in the world and regional economy. For Cuba, the crisis is already acute and this has been recognized by the country’s leadership, and Cubans are living it. In the topics under debate there has been a first plane: what should be the economic solutions to the crisis, what would they imply, in terms of economic growth, what place can and should the private sector of the economy occupy in the equation of the strategies to be designed and implemented, and what are the sectors that can and should be initially revitalized. Other issues have been less debated: the relationship between growth and development, the consequences of the crisis for inequality, the strategies to face it, labor rights, and the different bases from which different social groups start to face the situation. This dossier contributes to the open economic debate in Cuba, addressing both issues of its...

Photo: Kaloian Santos.

Economic debate in Cuba. Shall we also talk about labor rights in the private sector?

The crisis associated with COVID-19 is linked to other pre-existing crises on global and national scales: economic, political, care, demographic crises. Dependent, marginalized, deformed economies because of internal and/or external reasons, are in worse conditions to face this present and the future. Highly unequal and fragmented societies have additional challenges. Although the virus can nest in all bodies, not all bodies (individual and collective) are in the same conditions to survive its multiple effects. For the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in economic terms the crisis will be greater than that of 2008: a deep global recession, with more acute consequences for previously impoverished regions and countries. That organization expects the GDP to decrease by at least 1.8 percent in this region. Unemployment will increase by 10 percentage points. Approximately 33 million people will join the poverty groups that were already numerous. ECLAC has forecast an economic contraction of 3.4 percent for Cuba. The number could be higher. The impact is and will be as inevitable as it is acute. There are already notable consequences in the economy’s state sector. In the private sector, too. Up to mid-May, 35 percent of self-employment (SE) licenses...

Photo: Yander Zamora/EFE.

Cuba: (Feminist) requests to political society and civil society in the face of COVID-19

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) got the first coronavirus alert from Wuhan, China. Since then we have witnessed an uncontrolled and growing chain of infections and deaths. Remarkable mistakes have been confirmed in many national political managements of this unprecedented global crisis. Few countries have managed to avoid internal collapses. From an epidemiological point of view, Cuba is among the latter so far. COVID-19 is an epidemiological contingency that brings non-contingent issues to the fore: inequalities, vulnerabilities, impossibilities to manage the uncertainty of the present and the future. The disease is having a worse evolution in men due to factors related to their immune system and prevalence of respiratory diseases. However, international and social organizations have warned that the crisis has specific and more acute effects on women due to social and economic reasons and previous structural inequalities. Governments need to address this fact when designing and implementing measures to deal with the crisis and in the post-crisis. The Cuban government and institutions are deploying huge material and organizational resources to manage this situation. Part of the citizenry also does it, individually and collectively. Every day, new solidarity ventures and joint ways of doing things transcend. The...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

The pandemic does not discriminate; inequalities do: women cushioning the crisis

With COVID-19, the world is facing two interconnected but not identical realities: it exhibits and sharpens pre-existing inequalities and generates new ones, now based on the dynamics imposed by the coronavirus: this pandemic does not discriminate, inequalities do. The policies for dealing with the crisis are diverse. From the irrationality of the ultra-conservative Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil to the quick and efficient management of South Korea, and the sordid management of Lenín Moreno in Ecuador, which is one of the epicenters of the pandemic in the region. Countries that have implemented coherent and comprehensive measures or social policies that protect the most vulnerable are the least. The clearest panorama is that of oversaturation of public health services and the lack of protection of those who work there, the fragility of labor rights, the extremely high rates of job insecurity, the excessive exercise of military and police force on the streets, the unequal sexual division of care between men and women and families and the State, and even inability in the practical and ethical management of corpses. The other side of the coin is the activation of grassroots solidarity, communities taking over the collective management of life, attempts to politicize the...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Taking care, taking care of oneself, that we be taken care of in times of COVID-19

Caregiving. That is the most recurrent word in these days of COVID-19. The whole world is saying the same thing at the same time: take care, cuídate, prendre soin, pass auf dich auf, abbi cura di te, 保重, cuide-se…and so on. My mother repeats to me: take good care of yourself, please; and I return the phrase. I ask my friends on the PC screen: who is caring for the child today, what are you going to do? My elderly neighbor says to me three meters away: take care when you go out and bring me a lettuce if you see any. Another friend who lives far from Cuba wonders who will take care of her mother now that she is no longer here. On social networks: take care of the elderly, the grandmothers. Altogether we remind and request: the health personnel take care of us, let's also take care of them, #StayAtHome. That the borders be closed, that the schools be closed, that the State take care of us, we demand. Taking care, taking care of oneself, that we be taken care of. But who takes care, where and how do we take care. The #StayAtHome in our home...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Against gender-based violence in Cuba…. What if we redouble the commitment?

The discussion about gender-based violence has gained visibility in Cuba. The institutions that have worked on it and those that have done nothing or little know it. The victims, many, know it. It is known by those who are activists against religious reactionary isms and all types of conservatism. It is also known by those who fear that a fairer society for women will take away privileges. It is known by sexists who brag that gender-based violence does not exist, that gender-based inequality does not exist, that gender does not exist. On November 21, forty citizens asked Parliament for a Comprehensive Law against Gender Violence. A month later, the President expressed that the issue of gender-based violence was highly sensitive. Although there seems to be awareness of the matter, the proposal to draw up a Comprehensive Law did not classify within the legislative Schedule approved in 2019, where another 107 high-ranking norms did fit. There is no sign that this fact will change, although it would be desirable. Part of the citizenry is still following the matter. According to institutional statements, the alternative to the absence of a specific norm on gender-based violence in Cuba is to transversalize in other...

Photo: Kaloian

Comprehensive Law against Gender Violence: what is gained and what is lost

In Cuba, that which will be the last state regulation regarding sexist violence is being discussed. So far, it is known that the issue is on the national institutional political agenda and that it has gained body and visibility for citizens. That violence against women is a problem was recognized in the Conference of the Communist Party of Cuba (2012), in the new Constitution of the Republic (2019), in the country’s official reports to ECLAC (2019), in institutional talks and work, and in citizens’ demands. It is not just a national issue. In recent decades, legal attention to the fight against violence against women has increased almost worldwide. Women's and feminist organizations, international organizations, civil society and governments have contributed to this. The process has been difficult, with advances and setbacks, and has confirmed that the problem is not resolved just with legal changes, but that without them the issue is further from any solution. In legislative terms, Cuba has arrived a little late to the concert of legal actions in the region. Latin America is the territory with the most policies approved in favor of women and against sexist violence in the last decade. Today, 33 countries in the...

Photo: Kaloian

The gender of gender violence

In recent weeks, one of the most echoed and systematic debates in Cuba has been that of gender violence, especially in institutional voices, the media and the social media. Different elements have converged in that sense. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is celebrated every year on November 25. On that day, an extensive day of institutional activism is held in the country to make the problem visible and deepen the analysis of the issue. Community, cultural and different social projects have also joined. In addition, Cuba is on the threshold of a huge regulatory change after the approval of the new Constitution of the Republic. More than 50 laws will be modified or created in the coming years. The calendar must be made public before April 2020. This process has established the question of what place will gender violence occupy in the new legal body. Interest has been added to the matter by a citizen request to the National Assembly, delivered on November 21, 2019. The central request is the inclusion in the legislative calendar of an Integral Law against Gender Violence. This effort has contributed to making visible the two options that are being handled...

Photo: Pxhere

It’s not easy, Cachita

I have to go buy flowers―it was the first thing that came to my mind on September 7. Better today. Tomorrow no one can find yellow flowers. Flowers The two kiosks that sell flowers in the agricultural market changed their format and supply. There were the usual paint cans reused as containers for long-stemmed bundles. But there were also unusual made-up bouquets, each with sunflowers, stubbornly dusted with a silver frost. Flowers don’t need makeup. Never. But nothing and no one is free of the frost during these days of celebration or tribute to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint, and Oshún, deity of the Yoruba pantheon. The sunflowers were combined with a white flower: lilies, small roses or daffodils. I plunged into the cans with tied bundles. Digging, I touched the first interlocutor of the day. She was looking at me but wasn’t talking at all with me: -Oshun, my dear ... have you seen how things are? With these prices no one can buy you flowers.... Forgive me! I nodded. -Yes.... It's not easy! The stranger ended up buying a sunflower and a daffodil. I left with three sunflowers. Both of us proud with...

Illustration: Alina Najlis.

First data on femicide in Cuba

Cuba joins the list of countries speaking about femicides. This was acknowledged by official sources at the end of last April in a national report to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is being addressed. Although the report is from 2019, the specific data is from 2016. That year the femicide rate was 0.99 per 100,000 inhabitants of the female population older than 15 years. For a similar period, that rate is low compared to countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico or Brazil; and high in relation to Peru, Chile or Panama. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2016 the female population in those ages was 5,052,239. Then, approximately 50 women were killed in crimes officially classified as femicides. About one per week. The first data A year ago it seemed unlikely to have a number on these crimes. Since 2005, femicide has been a topic of international and regional interest, however in Cuba it was treated as a foreign issue. The same has not happened with the general issue of violence against women, which has been more diligently approached. The Women and Family...

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